Research Reality Check

I found an article on Discovery News from July 2010 with a very tantalizing headline: "Bee Venom can Improve Brain Function".  While this analysis did not place the claim that a neurotoxin found in bee venom, apamin, could help improve dementia, it did link to a Science Daily article which does.  

I've read through the study referenced (pdf).  The study was designed to examine the mechanism by which apamin impacts the brain.  At no point in the study do they reference the potential use of apamin in treating dementia, depression or Muscular Dystrophy.  I have to wonder if the author of the Science Daily article made a leap or had an insight which was not adequately conveyed in the article itself because I'm not seeing the link.

Apamin is just of the things that makes up bee venom.  The use of bee venom and other bee products as a medicinal treatment is known as apitherapy.  Bee venom is used to treat arthritis, for example, and honey is used as a salve on wounds because if its antibacterial properties.  I doubt that a bee sting would result in the desired impact on the brain.  Instead, the apamin would need to be synthesized for larger or more controlled dosing.

If there is value in the claim that apamin can be used to treat dementia it will be proven out in time.  Such a claim after only a single study and without any resulting treatment just strikes me as premature.  


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